Andrew S. Thompson, Ph.D.


Dr. Thompson, formerly with Merck Research Labs, Department of Process Research, leads J-Star Research with forward thinking views on how a contract chemistry organization can provide added value to it’s clients. During his nine year tenure at Merck, Dr. Thompson earned recognition for his contribution to the design, development and demonstration of practical synthetic routes to a number of drug candidates. Dr. Thompson obtained a Bachelors degree in chemistry at SUNY Buffalo in 1979. His Ph.D. studies were conducted under Professor Amos B. Smith III at the University of Pennsylvania, in the area of natural product synthesis. He was awarded an NIH Postdoctoral Research Fellowship with Professor Larry Overman at U. C. Irvine. Dr. Thompson’s interests outside of chemistry include collecting rare US coins and antique motorcycles and cars.

Erik Johnson, Ph.D.

Vice President

Dr. Johnson, formerly was with Novartis (Ciba-Geigy) in Process Development and earned recognition for piloting syntheses of a number of cardiovascular drug candidates. During his seven year tenure at Ciba-Geigy, he was also in charge of the kilo-lab. At J-Star, Erik manages several FTE collaborations while personally solving difficult process research and synthesis problems. Dr. Johnson earned his BA in chemistry at Oberlin College and subsequently spent two years as a bench chemist at Starks Associates. His Ph.D. studies were conducted under Professor Peter Vollhardt at The University of California at Berkeley, working in the area of metal-mediated organic transformations. After his Ph.D. training, Erik was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow with Professor Satoru Masamune at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and worked on catalytic asymmetric hydroborations.

James A. Kerschen, Ph.D.


Dr. Kerschen began his industrial career with DuPont Agricultural Products. During his 15 year tenure at DuPont, Jim was an internally recognized expert in amino acid, organophosphorus and heterocyclic synthetic chemistry. Dr. Kerschen received his BS in Chemistry from the University of Missouri at Columbia and his Ph.D. with Professor James A. Marshall at Northwestern University where he worked on decalin rearrangement strategies for the construction of the pseudoquianolide sesquiterpene ring system. Jim is an expert in FTE collaboration management. At J-STAR, Jim continues to manage FTE collaborations and functions in the laboratory, solving the more difficult synthetic chemistry problems.

Hui Chen, Ph.D.

Director of Analytical Services and Quality Control

Hui Chen, Ph.D. was formerly with Protocor & Gamble, Analytical Department in Beijing Technical Center. During her 3 years at P&G, she worked as an analytical representative in an innovative team with a group of great scientists from other departments such as Technology, Formulation and Product Design for new product development. She earned a recognition reward for her significant contribution to problem solving in new product development by using analytical tools.

She obtained her BA degree in chemistry at Central China Normal University in 1995. Her Ph.D. studies were conducted Under Professor Qinsun Wang at Nankai University in the area of separation science. She was awarded Shixian Yang Fellowship, a highly selective award for Ph. D. students in Chemistry. After her Ph.D. training and 3 years working at P&G in Beijing, she came to United States to work in Dr. Gloria Thomas’ lab as a postdoctoral associate continuously in the area of separation science.

Dr. Hui Chen initially joined J-Star as a senior scientist and gained a lot of hands-on experiences on analytical method development, project management and collaborations with other departments. Dr. Hui Chen continues to manage collaborations and functions in the laboratories and solve challenging analytical chemistry problems.

Jian Wang, Ph.D.

Founder and Director, Crystallization R&D Group

Dr. Jian Wang is an expert in API crystallization, with comprehensive knowledge of the sciences and technology required to meet client’s needs. She has over 30 years of R&D experience, mainly in API crystallization and reaction engineering, and has been providing R&D services since 2005 to clients around the globe.

Dr. Wang received her Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering in 1994, from the University of Pittsburg with Prof. Donna Blackmond and Prof. Irving Winder. During her 11-year tenure at Merck, Jian became an expert in API process R&D, and a champion in implementing science-based and technology-enabled approaches. She promoted directly the applications of PAT tools in process R&D serving as a consultant at Mettler Toledo AutoChem during 2005-2010. In 2011-2013, Jian took the responsibility as VP of Crystallization Development at Crystal Pharmatech, where she served a diverse client base in API crystallization projects. She started up a state-of-the-art crystallization lab and team at J-Star Research as a director, in the beginning of 2014, complementing J-Star’s existing and strong API Process Research. Dr. Wang has published 6 patents (5 related to API crystallization) and 20 peer-reviewed articles.

Tom Jacks, Ph.D.

Director of GMP Operations

Dr. Jacks started his career in the pharmaceutical industry with Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis (later Pfizer) in the Chemical Research and Development Department located in Holland, Michigan. While at Parke-Davis, Dr. Jacks was involved with a variety of projects at various stages of development, including Lipitor. The work conducted involved using equipment in the pilot plant ranging from 20 L to 1000 gallons in a cGMP environment.

A former educator, Dr. Jacks received degrees in General Science (BS), Education (MAT), and organic chemistry (Ph.D.) all from the University of Iowa. For his Ph.D. he worked for Dr. David Wiemer on organophosphorus methodology and natural product syntheses.

At J-Star Research, Inc. since 2003, Dr. Jacks is currently Director of GMP Operations, overseeing the GMP facilities while assisting in the development of chemical processes of interest to J-Star Research, Inc. clients.

Michael Karras, Ph.D.

Director of Quality Assurance

Dr. Karras started his industrial career with Hercules Incorporated, where he developed and scaled up processes for the synthesis and isolation of flavor chemicals. He then moved into the development and scale up of enzymatic processes for the synthesis of chiral amines at Celgene Corporation, where he became Manager of Enzymatic Process Development and Quality Control within the Chiral Amines business unit. He continued in this capacity when that business unit was acquired by Cambrex Corporation, ultimately becoming Manager of Quality Assurance for the synthesis of early phase clinical and small volume commercial APIs at Cambrex North Brunswick, Inc.

Dr. Karras earned his BS in chemistry from Georgetown University. He obtained his Ph.D. in chemistry with Prof. Barry Snider at Princeton University, where he worked on the carbometallation of alkynylsilanes and the Lewis acid induced cyclization of unsaturated carbonyl compounds.